The Best of Club Basketball Around the World
Posted Oct 18 2001 10:40PM
The History of the McDonald's Championship
For more than a decade, the McDonald's Championship has represented the very best of club basketball played the world. The biennial tournament brings together the top club teams from various leagues throughout the world, and the event becomes more than simply basketball. Yes, there is competition with international club teams attempting to upset teams from the NBA, which plays the game at its highest level. But, the event also is about getting to know competitors, visiting fabulous international cities, mingling with fans and media from countries all over the world, and creating a greater global awareness of the game of basketball.
Continuing the tradition of world-famous locales, the site for the 1999 McDonald's Championship was Milan, Italy, where the San Antonio Spurs -- led by tourney MVP Tim Duncan -- defeated Vasco da Gama of Brazil 103-68 in the finals. NBA teams are now 18-0 with nine titles in the tourney, which featured the Spurs and five international club champions -- Vasco, Zalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania), Varese (Italy), C.S. Sagesse (Lebanon) and the Adelaide 36ers (Australia).
The "strictly champions" format of the McDonald's Championship was first used in the 1995 McDonald's Championship in London when the Houston Rockets became the first NBA titlist to compete.
"The McDonald's Championship is considered to be the most important basketball club competition in the world," said Boris Stankovic, Secretary General of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Held in Milwaukee on October 23-25, 1987, the inaugural McDonald's Championship was a three-team, round-robin tournament. The Milwaukee Bucks defeated 1987 European and Continental Cup champions Tracer (now Stefanel) Milan 123-111 in the opener. That game was followed by the Soviet Union's national team beating Tracer 135-108 on the second day.
The tournament finale was played in front of a capacity crowd of 11,054 in Milwaukee's MECCA Arena with thousands more watching the game on a giant TV screen outside the building. The Bucks defeated the Soviet Union 127-100 to claim the tournament purse of $50,000, which they donated to charity.
"The participation of FIBA and the NBA together in this event is a historic first," NBA Commissioner David Stern said in Milwaukee.
The second McDonald's Championship brought the tournament to Europe. The Boston Celtics won the four-team tournament, beating Real Madrid 111-96. Boston broke open a close game with an 11-0 run early in the fourth quarter that had the crowd rocking. Yugoslavia, which had lost its best player, guard Drazen Petrovic, to Real Madrid two weeks before the tournament, took third place with a 100-91 win over Italian League champions Scavolini Pesaro, which had dropped its opener to Real Madrid 108-96.
In its third year, the championship shifted to Rome where the Denver Nuggets represented the NBA and collected the title in a 135-129 victory over Jugoplastika Split.
"The games were fun, but it was the whole atmosphere surrounding this event that was great," said Denver Coach Doug Moe. "I'd recommend it for any NBA team. It was a fun time."
The 1990 McDonald's Championship was the inaugural event at Barcelona's Palau d'Esports Sant Jordi, one of the primary venues for the 1992 Olympic Games and the tournament proved to be an exciting preview of the international competition that would wow the city.
In a thrilling opener, the New York Knicks managed to get by Italian champion Scavolini in overtime, 119-115. Also, POP 84, led by Toni Kukoc's 23 points and record-breaking 17 assists, overcame Spanish champion Barcelona and the partisan crowd, 102-97.
The McDonald's Championship held in Paris in 1991 concluded with the Los Angeles Lakers becoming the fifth champion. They defeated Joventut Badalona 116-114 in the title game with the help of a Magic Johnson driving layup with just over a minute left.
After taking a year off for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, the event became a biennial competition and expanded to six teams in 1993. Led by the 1993 NBA Most Valuable Player and 1992 Olympic Dream Team member Charles Barkley, the Phoenix Suns won the tournament 112-90 over Buckler Bologna in the championship game. In the final, Barkley scored a game-high 28 points.
In London in 1995, the Houston Rockets showed the world why they were the NBA champions. Their star player, center Hakeem Olajuwon, sidelined after elbow surgery, was not needed for Houston to capture the seventh McDonald's crown. Guard Clyde Drexler took the leadership role and scored 25 points and added 10 assists to capture the tournament MVP as the Rockets defeated Buckler Bologna 126-112 in the final game. In the semifinals, the Rockets beat the Perth Wildcats by a tournament-record 44 points.
In 1997, the McDonald's Championship returned to Paris' Palais Omniports de Paris-Bercy. The NBA champions Chicago Bulls and the largest media contingent in McDonald's Championship history descended on the City of Light for the three-day tournament. Traveling for the first time outside North America, the Bulls competed against five of the best teams in international competition: Olympiakos Piraeus, Atenas de Cordoba, PSG Racing, F.C. Barcelona and Benetton Treviso. Led by Michael Jordan, the Bulls defeated PSG Racing 89-82 in the semifinals and European champions Olympiakos Piraeus in the final 104-78. During the competition, Jordan scored 55 points in two games and won MVP honors. For teammate Toni Kukoc, who was making his record fourth appearance in McDonald's competition but his first with the NBA representative, the trip to Paris netted his first McDonald's crown. Kukoc had previously played for teams in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Italy.